12 European Cities to Visit Off the Beaten Path

When we hear the word Europe, we tend to picture famous historical landmarks in the most visited cities on the continent. You might think of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Rome’s Colosseum, Big Ben in London or the winding canals of Amsterdam. Although these popular tourist destinations are fantastic to experience in person, there is so much more of Europe waiting to be discovered. Here are some of the most beautiful and interesting European cities that you may not have thought to visit.

1. Bruges, BelgiumBruges is one of the most quintessentially beautiful cities in Europe. In fact, it is so stunning that Colin Farrell acted in a movie about it. Its cobblestone streets and medieval architecture make Bruges seem like a town straight out of a fairytale. If you visited Bruges and didn’t try their chocolate and waffles, did you even really go there?

2. Toledo, SpainLocated about 50 miles south of Madrid, Toledo is known as “The City of Three Cultures” for its historical coexistence of Christians, Muslims and Jews. This makes for a culturally unique experience when exploring the monuments and relics in Toledo. Being that Toledo is set on a hill, you’ll be sure to get incredible views of this beautiful city.

3. Edinburgh, ScotlandEdinburgh is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the United Kingdom, and is as vibrant as it is historical. This cosmopolitan city is made up of stunning castles and medieval architecture. It is home to the famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival. Scottish accents are also a plus.

4. Cologne, GermanySet on the Rhine river, Cologne is rich with history. It’s known for its Gothic architecture, most notably seen in the stunning Cologne Cathedral. You’ll be sure to get an authentic German experience here, so don’t miss out on some delicious schnitzel!

5. Split, Croatia Split is a city centered around its magnificent beaches. It is also the home of Roman emperor Diocletian’s palace, a unique and historical sight to see. From here, take a day trip to the spectacular Krka National Park to see one of the prettiest displays of natural beauty ever.

6. Utrecht, NetherlandsAlthough I’m biased because I was lucky enough to study abroad in this incredible place, I personally believe Utrecht is easily one of the best cities to spend time in Europe. Utrecht is not a big tourist destination, which makes it easy to really immerse yourself into the Dutch culture. And luckily, everyone speaks English! When you visit, make sure you rent a bike for the true Dutch experience.

7. Lille, FranceLille is probably the most underrated city in France. With a plethora of museums, shops and nightlife options, you would not be at a loss for what to do in this vibrant metropolis. The natives are known for their friendliness, which makes for a pleasant and authentic French experience.

8. Copenhagen, DenmarkYou’ll understand why Denmark is consistently named the world’s happiest country as soon as you arrive in its capital city, Copenhagen. Its rich history, friendly people and colorful buildings will make you fall in love with Scandinavian culture, maybe even swaying you to want to permanently move to Denmark. Make sure you stop by Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest amusement park in the world, for the beautiful scenery and fun rides.

9. Capri, ItalyAn island off the Gulf of Naples, Capri offers one of the best views in Italy. Its mountainous landscape and crystal blue water are unforgettable. Make sure you check out the chairlift up Monte Solaro to maximize your time in Capri.

10. Budapest, HungaryBudapest is the capital of Hungary and has so much to offer. This metropolitan beauty is filled with historical significance, cultural charm and a dynamic vibe. Spend your time here packing in all the incredible sights, or just relaxing on the Danube with some traditional Hungarian cuisine.

11. Porto, PortugalPorto has the best of everything: beaches, parks, architecture and anything else you could possibly want as a tourist. It is one of Europe’s oldest cities, providing an array of historical opportunities. Porto is perhaps best known for its port wine. What could be better than enjoying one of the best glasses of wine you’ll ever have in a city as beautiful as this?

12. Lofoten, Norway Set in the heart of the Norwegian fjords, Lofoten is one of the best spots for an outdoor adventurer. There are very few places in the world with scenery as dramatic and spectacular as in Lofoten. Here you’ll find some of the world’s best hiking, cycling, surfing and rock climbing. Look no further for the ultimate adventure.

Whether you're planning a European vacation with your family or deciding where to travel while studying abroad this school year, be sure to add some of these outstanding destinations to your list, in addition to the classics. You will not regret experiencing different cultures and places that most people don’t think to include on their itineraries.